By Boris Volkhonsky
On Sunday, as reported by Associated Press, the leader of Al Qaeda terrorist network Ayman al-Zawahiri called on his supporters to oust Syria’s “pernicious, cancerous regime” of President Bashar Assad.
In a video message titled “Onwards, Lions of Syria!” Zawahiri said the Syrian rebels had the right to use whatever means they saw fit to get rid of the regime. He also urged the opposition not to rely on the Arab League or the West for help.
“Wounded Syria is still bleeding day after day, and the butcher (Assad) isn’t deterred and doesn’t stop,” said Zawahri.
In fact, previously the Assad regime repeatedly said that Islamic militants are behind the violence in Syria. This claim was just as repeatedly rejected by opposition groups who say it is designed to discredit them in the eyes of the international community.
Zawahiri’s video message comes just in time. It has been pointed out to Western “supporters of Syrian democracy” many times that toppling Bashar Assad’s regime (with all the drawbacks of him as an authoritarian ruler) would not mean an establishment of democracy and would not stop violence, but on the contrary – would lead to more bloodshed, communal violence and eventual triumph of most radical and criminal elements including Al Qaeda terrorists. Still, the West has been persistent in its demands for Assad to step down.
Now it seems that what had been kept covert for months has become obvious. The U.S. and its supporters both in the West and in the Persian Gulf region have found a new ally. Despite Zawahiri’s claims that Syrian opposition should not rely on the West and the Arab League, he is actually joining forces with them.
It might be an embarrassing situation for the U.S. and the West, but in fact, too often in the recent past we have seen examples when the U.S. is ready to forge alliances with former foes whenever a new, apparently bigger threat to its interests emerges. So, it would be no wonder if in a couple of months or years the U.S. Marines will be ready to fight alongside with those very people they recently urinated upon.
Another question is whether the Islamic world will so easily forget the insults. But then, again, it seems there is no such thing as a united Islamic world. Actually, certain imperial forces within the Islamic world have acquired a stance of pretending to be the sole bearers of Islam. And this is done for a very obvious and practical reason – not to alienate the Big American Brother.
Therefore, while Muslims like those in Syria, Iran and before that – in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan are treated as culprits deserving little more than direct aggression, the U.S. is ready to turn a blind eye on atrocities committed in the allied countries.
On the same day when Zawahiri addressed “the Lions of Syria”, violence erupted in the capital of Bahrain, Manama. Riot police engaged in clashed with the young people who celebrated the anniversary of last year’s uprising by blocking streets and throwing petrol bombs at the police.
Apart from the scale of the protests and police counter-measures, the report could be used to describe what has been going on in Syria for months – an uprising, police counter-measures which lead to further escalation of violence. But the U.S. is not ready to stand up for the human rights in Bahrain. Why?
The answer is simple. Bahrain is a long-time U.S. ally, and a very important base for the U.S. Fifth Fleet which patrols the Persian Gulf region is located there. So, in the U.S. eyes there cannot be any comparison with Syria.
Indeed, it would be no wonder if one day we see Ayman al-Zawahiri honored by U.S. President as a valuable ally in the fight for human rights.
Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies